Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan, refuses to fade away. Living in exile in Italy since July 1973, when he was overthrown by Sardar Daoud, his prime minister, Zahir Shah has made occasional appearances on the political stage amid suggestions of resurrecting Afghanistan’s traditional system. His latest move is to call a meeting of ‘impartial’Afghans in Rome on June 25. The Taliban were invited but dismissed the initiative, saying “Those who had no role in Afghan jihad and have spent a luxurious life in other countries cannot play any role in Afghan affairs.”
It is true that Zahir Shah has lived in luxury. But, as the Taliban are well aware, they themselves only emerged after the Russians had been defeated, and were allowed to come to power only under US and Pakistani patronage. True, Zahir Shah played no role in the jihad, but nor has he contributed to the subsequent mess.
In fact, Zahir Shah is too old to play any direct role himself in Afghan affairs today. His cousin and son-in-law, Shah Wali, is the real force behind these moves, using the former king’s name and prestige to attract interest.
Those invited to the meeting include Hamid Gailani, Hidayat Amin Arsala, Hamid Karzay, Professor Rasool Amin, Hakim Ayubi, Dr Yousaf Nooristani and Rahim Wardak, all currently living in Pakistan., and Sultan Mehmood Ghazi, Dr Zalme Khalilzad, Dr Ashraf Ghani Ahmedzai, Fatima Gailani, Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi and Abdul Sattar Seerat from the US. The invitations to Khalilzad, who works closely with Washington, and Fatima Gailani, daughter of Pir Sayed Ahmed Gailani, a former pro-western mujahideen leader, brings into question the ‘impartiality’ of those attending. The US, tired of the Taliban’s unpredicability, may be seeking alternatives to serve their purpose.
The conference is expected to review the possibility of holding a traditional loya jirga (grand assembly) to decide the country’s future. The Taliban say that Afghanistan already has a representative government, and condemn those who do not support them as the ‘enemies of God.’ The Taliban also make one further point. They ask: how many guns does Zahir Shah have? He who has guns, tanks and bullets, and is able to control Kabul and bread, rules Afghanistan. It is as simple as that.
Muslimedia: July 1-15, 1999